China: Groping for a Consensus

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Anyone expecting the traditional rubber-stamp approval of government policies was in for a surprise last week when China's top Communist Party leaders gathered for a rite that is quickly becoming an anachronism: creating a new five-year plan. Despite the party's monopoly on power, it was soon evident that deep divisions were preventing the Central Committee from reaching a consensus. The resistance came mainly from provincial leaders, who gained control over local industry and revenues in the reforms initiated by Deng Xiaoping in 1985. Deng showed up to vote but failed to defend those who want to retain the responsibilities he gave them five years ago.